How to Enroll In the Right Dental Hygienist Degree Program Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Choosing the ideal dental hygienist college near Tuscaloosa AL is an important first step toward launching your new career in dentistry. But before you can make your selection, you must assess and compare your school options. There is far more to completing your due diligence than selecting the program with the lowest tuition or enrolling in the school that is nearest to your home. There are other significant issues to consider as well, such as the program's accreditation and reputation. Dental hygienists typically earn an Associate Degree, as compared to a certificate usually earned by assistants, and can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. Naturally with the more extensive training of a hygienist comes more expense. We will explore all of these considerations and additional questions that you need to be asking the dental hygienist schools you are assessing later in this article. But first, let's look at the duties of dental hygienists and the training programs provided.
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The Duties of a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care under a dentist's supervision. They clean patients' teeth and examine their mouths for signs of damage, gingivitis, and other diseases. Hygienists teach patients how to maintain good oral health. They also schedule appointments and keep records and may take and develop X-rays. Their scope of practice, which is the list of services they are legally allowed to deliver, differs according to the regulations of the state in which they practice. Dental hygienists generally are required to perform duties that include the following:
- Complete a preliminary exam on each new dental service patient
- Clean and remove stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth
- Apply fluorides and sealants for tooth protection
- Take dental x-rays and develop them
- Administer local anesthetics to patients
- Document treatment plans and care performed on patients
- Examine each patient's oral health and communicate findings to dentists
- Educate patients on how to care for their teeth with good oral hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing
Dental Hygienist Schooling and LicensingDental hygienists typically need an associate's degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene also are available, but are less common. A bachelor's or master's degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2017, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs. Programs typically take 2 to 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations are required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state's Board of Dental Examiners.
Online Dental Hygienist Training
Selecting an online dental hygienist college might be a viable option for obtaining your education. Just keep in mind that the classes will not be completely online, since there will be a practical portion to your training. But the remainder of your classes will be available by means of your desktop computer in the comfort of your Tuscaloosa AL home or elsewhere on your tablet or laptop. For those working while attending college, online dental programs make education a lot more accessible. Many may even offer lower tuition rates than their traditional competitors. And supplementary expenses for items like books, school supplies and commuting may be reduced as well. The practical training can often be completed at a community dental office or in an on-campus lab. With both the online and clinical training, everything necessary to receive the proper education is provided. If you have the discipline for this method of education, you may find that attending an online dental hygienist college is the right choice for you.
What to Cover With Dental Hygienist Programs
Now that you have decided to become a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama, you can start the process of comparing programs and schools. As we covered at the start of this article, a number of students start by looking at the cost and the location of the colleges. Maybe they look for several online alternatives also. Although these may be significant initial factors to consider, there are several additional questions that you need to address to the colleges you are reviewing in order to arrive at an informed decision. Toward that end, we have included a list of questions to assist you with your due diligence and final selection of the right dental hygienist school for you.
Is the Dental College Accredited? There are a number of valid reasons why you should only pick an accredited dental hygienist school. If you are going to become licensed or certified, then accreditation is a condition in nearly all states. To qualify to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, your dental school must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA). Accreditation also helps ensure that the training you get is comprehensive and of the highest quality. Tuscaloosa AL employers typically desire or require that job applicants are graduates of accredited colleges. And finally, if you are applying for a student loan or financial aid, frequently they are not available for non-accredited schools.
Is Enough Practical Training Included? Practical or clinical training is an essential component of any dental training program. This is true for the online college options as well. Most dental hygienist programs have associations with local dental practices and clinics that furnish clinical training for their students. It's not only imperative that the college you select offers adequate clinical hours but also provides them in the kind of practice that you subsequently want to work in. For example, if you have an interest in a career in pediatric dentistry, check that the school you select offers clinical rotation in a local Tuscaloosa AL dental practice that specializes in dental care for children.
Are Internships Available? Verify if the dental schools you are looking at sponsor an internship program. Internships are probably the most effective way to obtain hands-on, clinical experience in a real dental practice. They help students to transition from the theoretical to the practical. They can also help students form working relationships in the professional dental community. And they are attractive on resumes too.
Is Job Placement Help Furnished? Most graduating students of dental hygienist colleges need help obtaining their first job. Ask if the schools you are researching have job assistance programs, and what their job placement rates are. Programs with high job placement rates are likely to have good reputations within the Tuscaloosa AL dental profession in addition to extensive networks of contacts where they can refer their students for internships or employment.
Are Classrooms Smaller? Find out from the schools you are interested in how large typically their classrooms are. The smaller classes generally provide a more personal setting for learning where students have increased access to the instructors. Conversely, bigger classes tend to be impersonal and provide little individualized instruction. If practical, ask if you can attend a couple of classes at the Tuscaloosa AL dental hygienist school that you are leaning toward so that you can witness first hand the level of interaction between students and teachers before enrolling.
What is the Overall Expense of the Program? Dental hygiene colleges can fluctuate in cost dependent on the length of the program and the amount of clinical training provided. Other factors, such as the reputations of the colleges and if they are private or public also come into play. But besides the tuition there are other significant costs which can add up. They can include expenses for such things as commuting and textbooks as well as school equipment, materials and supplies. So when comparing the cost of schools, remember to include all of the costs related to your education. Most schools have financial assistance departments, so be sure to check out what is offered as far as grants, loans and scholarships in the Tuscaloosa AL area.
Are the Classes Convenient? Before enrolling in a dental hygienist school, you must confirm that the hygienist or assistant program provides classes that accommodate your schedule. This is especially true if you will be working while getting your education and need to go to classes near Tuscaloosa AL at nights or on weekends. And even if you choose an online program, you will still be required to schedule your practical training classes. Also, while addressing your concerns, ask what the make-up procedure is if you should need to miss any classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Pick the Best Tuscaloosa Dental Hygienist School
Enrolling in the right dental hygienist program is important if you want to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam or, if required in your state, become licensed. As we have covered, there are a number of options available to obtain your education and it takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental hygienist. You can acquire your formal training through dental hygienist programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes and trade schools. Graduates of these programs generally obtain an Associate Degree. Dental Hygienists generally require about two years of studies before they enter the job market. When pursuing a degree you can choose to go to classes on-campus or online. Whichever mode of training you decide to pursue, by addressing the questions provided in this article you will be in a better position to make the right selection. And by doing so, you will be ready to commence your journey toward becoming a dental hygienist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.